Silver Kiss is the first novel in Naomi Clark’s Urban Wolf series, and it dumps you straight into the thick of things, almost as though you had missed a first book. Strangely, this works for me. The lack of intensive exposition building up the world and explaining the character history gives the novel a sense of immediacy – and you find out all you need to as the story moves along.
The world Clark builds is very similar to ours, with the exception of werewolves being out in the open – and being recognised as a separate species/race as human (which is neatly skipped over due to the main characters’ decision not to have children). The wolves in Clark’s alternate America are accepted to the degree that anyone ‘different’ is; some people are really cool about it, some people are wary, some people form hate groups – the prejudice the main character faces is made more complicated by the fact that she is gay (that’s right, lesbian werewolf!).
The sense of the pack in this novel is also quite strong and well defined, even when it is something Ayla is struggling against. I love the fact that after so many novels to the contrary, this is a werewolf novel not focussed on pack heirachy, dominance and sex. It’s just like a club, a big old family, for better or worse. As yet, werewolves are the only supernatural element to the world Clark has built, a fact which the main character, Ayla, laments at one point. It will be interesting to see whether this remains the case as the series progresses, or if more supernatural elements are introduced.
The story opens not long after our main character, Ayla Hammond has moved back to her hometown with her girlfriend, Shannon, after years away. Ayla had run away from home due to the feeling of ostracism she felt at home and in the pack, being a gay wolf in a society prizing offspring, and is now attempting to mend fences with her parents and adjust to life in the pack again after living for years as a lone wolf.
Ayla’s partner Shannon is a PI, and it isn’t long before the mystery/crime element kicks the plot into gear. The case itself is not overly complicated, but it is paced well and the shorter length of the novel really comes into play here – not overly drawing out the plot just for the sake of it. I admit to being a bit annoyed about figuring out one particular plot element chapters before the main character did – but such is often a problem with me, and there’s no real way of knowing whether that was a deliberate choice on the part of the writer – making something transparent to the reader, but not the narrator.
One of the things I liked the most about this novel was how the normal everyday dramas of life were woven in to the story, making it seem all the more real. Ayla had to worry about not having accrued any sick leave at work, and when Shannon and Ayla argue (as most couples do) it’s about things which may appear on the surface to be about the supernatural plot elements but are in fact based on common relationship issues such as lifestyle compromise, family and trust.
All in all, this is a good little novel, and kept me turning the pages faster than I had planned – had to find a new book to finish out the work week with.